The last decade has seen a huge rise in the frequency, availability and ubiquity of advance promotional materials such as film posters or trailers. The current prevalence of what my colleagues Jennifer Gillan, Ed Vollans, Fred Greene and I have called ‘anticipatory media’ is closely allied to the speculative screen cultures that develop around such promotional materials – posters and trailers are regularly the site of detailed analysis by fan sites, individual social media posts, and articles written for major media publications. Yet as many scholars have revealed, some fans do much more than simply piece apart the official promotional releases. They also produce their own.
In fact, while the range of blockbuster promotion has expanded, the earliest promotional material for most films comes not from the studios, but from those fans. To use the example of the forthcoming Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 of which is not due out until 2018 – sites such as DeviantArt already contain a range of different fan posters. Here, fan anticipation of a forthcoming film is allied directly with the techniques found in the anticipatory media for similar films. Most of the first set of posters displayed in the video rely heavily on the group shot of heroes – something Marvel has already utilised in posters for the first two Avengers films, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet as later posters in the video demonstrate, the more recent trend for character-led posters (particularly around franchises such as the Twilight, Hunger Games or Star Wars series) finds an echo in fan-produced posters that highlight the Marvel villain, Thanos, the main villain of the Infinity Wars storyline, whose role has already been glimpsed through anticipatory appearances in post-film teasers and film appearances. So, while fans are free to create whatever media they want, the choice to closely mimic the style and structure of existing anticipatory media forms suggests both a clear enjoyment of those promotional materials and a desire to anticipate and imagine the eventual design.